Having failed to go the full distance in the opening two rounds of the World Rally Championship, the Irish duo of Kris Meeke/Paul Nagle (Citroen DS3 WRC) seek better fortune on this weekend’s Rally Mexico, the first gravel event of the year.
The high altitude means engine power will be lower with team engineers reckoning the power output will be similar to last year’s cars. While that will result in less tyre wear, cooling systems, including those linked to the brakes, will be affected in the new WR cars.
On the shakedown Meek was third quickest behind Thierry Neuville (Hyundai), who has led both opening rounds and Jari Matti Latvala (Toyota Auris).
“It was difficult to feel confident on this very twisty, technical road. Despite the rain, we kept working on improving the set-up and we moved in the right direction.”
For the first time in four years Sebastien Ogier (Fiesta WRC) is not first car on the road – that sometimes unwanted honour goes to championship leader Jari Matti Latvala in the Gazoo Racing Toyota Auris WRC, the Finnish ace won last year’s event with the VW outfit.
Meanwhile, Irish drivers Keith Cronin and Desi Henry contest tomorrow’s Malcolm Wilson Rally in the Lake District ahead of their outing in next week’s opening round of the British Rally Championship in Scotland. Cronin will use his own Fiesta R5 that should benefit from some software upgrades installed by M-Sport. Prior to signing the deal to drive an M-Sport run Fiesta R5 in the BRC, Cronin undertook some testing in the forests of Greystoke where he clocked up around 300 kilometres in an M-Sport Fiesta R5.
The Ballylickey driver and Killarney co-driver Mikie Galvin are the top seeds for the seven-stage event in Cumbria. “I just want to get more familiar with the car. I will just concentrate on my own progress rather than looking at the opposition. I’m doing the rally to get more accustomed to the Fiesta and it also gives me more time on gravel surface.”
Antrim’s Henry, in his Skoda Fabia R5, has Millstreet’s Liam Moynihan calling the notes. Other entries include David Bogie (Skoda Fabia R5), Luke Francis (Mitsubishi EvoIX), Euan Thorburn (Ford Fiesta R5) and Jonny Greer (Citroen DS3 R5).
The Northern Ireland Rally Championship continues tomorrow with the McGrady Insurance Bishopscourt Rally (Round 2) where multi champion Derek McGarrity tops the entry in his Ford Fiesta WRC. The opposition is strong with former national champion Peadar Hurson (Ford Fiesta WRC), Alan Carmichael and Derek McGeehan in Mini WRC’s, the Subaru WRC duo of Kenny McKinstry and Kevin Barrett and Niall Henry (Mitsubishi).
Achill Island is the setting for Sunday’s Mayo Rally. Donegal’s Joe McGonigle (Skoda Fabia R5) heads the 70 plus entry that has Mayo’s Pauric Duffy (FiestaR5), Kilkenny’s Eoin Doyle (Subaru WRC), Meath’s Pat Donegan and Tyrone’s Adrian Hetherington, both in Escorts, completing the top five. The first of the day’s six stages is scheduled to start at 9.56am.
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